“A critical task of science is to provide clear nomenclature – precise terms that sharpen our understanding of patterned phenomena in the outside world and inside the mind.” – Dacher Keltner, The Power Paradox.
During the last few weeks, I’ve had the chance not only to see the work a friend has been doing on his thesis but also to find myself trying to understand that work in progress. That was the pleasure of the moments during which he shared some new thinking. From the outside perspective, I then have the opportunity to contribute to two tasks. One is to make sense of what he shares and the other is to verify how I understand it.
How I understand it has regularly been influenced by my ability to grasp the descriptions and words he has been using. Doing this is doing the detailed work of understanding and creating meaning. It happens through the sharpening of our understanding of patterned phenomena as well as finding the precise terms for it as Keltner describes it. It meant listening to a new iteration of the thoughts underlying the work, and then to see if I can connect the given definition with the described patterns. That is if I understand precisely enough what my friend has been defining.
My sense-making work then becomes to see if the definitions he has established are all well connected in the story he shares with me. All the definitions he established need to become connected into an image or system I can clearly perceive and describe.
That is so because the work is not completed yet and meaning still emerging.
He will have finished his work, whenever his reader has a fluid sense of understanding of the whole story he wrote. It will be when he succeeds to describe definitions and their connections in such a way that they raise the questions a reader needs to ask himself while reading. He will have guided his reader with a process easing their understanding of the shared story.
It does mean that they will have that his story is valid. They may want to argue with some assumptions he will have made or on the uniqueness of his conclusions, but that should be it.
What it doesn’t necessarily mean is that readers will agree with him, although I think they will.